‘This isn’t your grandma’s jazz!’
John Scofield Band brings the funk for hot night of dancing at the Big Room
I write this without the usual notes I take when reviewing a band—I went to the John Scofield Band show simply to have a good time. I came home afterward and announced, “That was the funnest show I have been to all year!”
About a third of the way into the evening, I felt a rivulet of sweat roll down my spine, and it wasn’t because of an air-conditioning problem in Sierra Nevada’s Big Room. From song one until the last song of the raging finale, bar a couple of slower (but never un-grooving) tunes after the set break, I was on that dance floor. Well, actually I started out seated on a stool but that didn’t last long, thank God. Just measures into the first song I was actually dancing in the aisle with my friend Nadia. When the cocktail waitress politely told us that we were blocking traffic, we moved over to the actual dance floor tucked off to the left of the stage. By this time, two other women had joined us. Then came more and more people. Slowly, the crowd on the dance floor grew as an increasing number of people realized that this was not some sit-down-and-behave-yourself presentation. Like Master of Ceremonies Bob Littell said to introduce the evening: “This isn’t your grandma’s jazz!”
Master jazz guitarist Scofield and his young (and cute!) band—"electro-magician” Avi Bortnick on rhythm guitar and laptop computer (some crazy sound effects coming from that side of the stage!); Andy Hess on electric bass; Adam Deitch on drums (some wild effects coming from back there, too)—played two thoroughly infectious and sexy sets of pulsating, funky-ass dance music, mostly from their latest CD, Up All Night. Sco’s guitar work, complete with liberal and very creative use of a sampler, was stunning and soul-satisfying. Bortnick, Hess and Deitch were no less lovable.
“Every Night Is Ladies’ Night,” from Up All Night, was met with cheers from the crowd. After explaining his former dislike for disco, and being reminded by Hess that, “Things change,” Sco said he likes disco now and launched his crew into “Freakin’ Disco,” to the delight of the dancers. Actually, everything was to the delight of the dancers. If you were a dancer, the Big Room was definitely the place to be Sunday night. The groove-driven arms and hips, the blissful looks on faces. … Ahh, it was a beautiful thing!
Like I told my friend Eric when he asked for my one-sentence summary of the evening, “It was one hell of a dance party!”
Author’s note: It is partly because of the unexpected death of the manager of the Cuban band Valle Son that I am writing this last-minute review of the John Scofield Band show. Valle Son was to perform at the Chico Women’s Club on the same Sunday evening, and was slated to be reviewed, but the group had to cancel due to the tragedy. I extend my sympathy and condolences to the friends and family of Valle Son’s manager and to the band members of Valle Son for their loss.